Digital Games Theory and Design MA

  • Overview
  • Course Content
  • Special Features
  • Teaching & Assessment
  • Employability
  • Fees
  • Entry Criteria

About the Course

The video game industry is a vastly growing sector in both the UK and worldwide and the need for highly skilled and educated individuals is in high demand across the globe. With Brunel’s Digital Games Theory and Design MA programme, individuals will engage in, and experiment with, practical game design focussing on the process of devising the gameplay experience itself, including (but not limited to) the creation of rules, gameplay mechanics, narrative, world design and user experience, among many other aspects that make up the art of game design.

Coupled with a theoretical underpinning that focuses on the formal characteristics of games and analysis as well as the social and cultural contexts that shape the development of games, players, and society, this exciting programme offers students the opportunity to develop a range of skills that are required for success in today’s competitive job market.

Our programme is staffed with seasoned games designers and internationally published scholars who bring with them an extensive understanding of the nature of the video game industry, the importance of networks and the need for scholarly engagement in order to create innovative games for the future.

"I believe this award to be the best of its kind in the country, and continue to be both impressed and envious of the quality of students it attracts."

Professor Richard Bartle, University of Essex


  • You will gain a comprehensive and sophisticated understanding of the advanced academic study of digital games and the techniques and principles used in their design.
  • You will be provided with the relevant expertise, teaching and learning environment to support your critical and creative engagement with issues at the cutting edge of analysing and designing digital games. You will contribute to the process of defining ‘game studies’ as a new academic discipline.
  • You will develop skills and knowledge to gain employment in the digital games industry and make contributions to the development of innovative games that go beyond current markets.
  • You will acquire the skills necessary to undertake doctoral level research.


Programme Director: Kelly Boudreau

Related Courses

Course Content

Each module will have a range of assessments; some practical, others written.

Game Design 1 (term 1, 30 credits) - practical group design projects (small); written evaluative case study 2000 words; assessed presentation
  • Principles behind the rules and play of games.
  • Detailed study of how games function to create experiences, including rule design, play, mechanics/structure, game balancing, social game interaction and the integration of textual strategies to create the gaming experience.
  • A range of paper-based and/or digitally rendered designs trial ideas provide the focus for an evaluative case study, which is also presented orally.

Critical Approaches (term 1, 30 credits) - 2 x 3000 word essays

The course will:

  • Define and contextualize key concepts that shape the interdisciplinary field of Game Studies.
  • Provide detailed study of the different methodological approaches used in the study of games/videogames.
  • Students will engage in developing a scholarly vocabulary used to critically evaluate videogames and their relation to and distinction from other media.
  • Connections between the theoretical and practical understanding of games studies and design will be made throughout the course as applicable

Game Design 2 (term 2, 30 credits) - 1 x practical design project tailored to a specific platform (large); written evaluative case study 3000 words; assessed presentation

  • Building on the work in Game Design I, students develop individually a design for a game for a particular platform (phone; PC; handheld, console etc). The game can be delivered in digital format for those with technical skills or as storyboard, character profiles, visual 'mood board'/style palette, sound-effects/music profiling. The project will demonstrate practical application of ideas explored in Critical Approaches to show a deep understanding of concepts of pleasure, genre, core game-play values, structure and rules.

Socio-Cultural Contexts (term 2, 30 credits) (1 x 6000 word essays)

Overall, this class provides:

  • Context and framework for discussing the relationship between games, play, society, and culture.
  • Analysis of contemporary demographic data about who plays games, why they play games and how they play games.
  • Studies of the ways in which games influence culture through fandom, media panics, and virtual life.
  • Studies of the ways in which culture influences the creation and development of games through economics/business models and gaming regulatory bodies.

Dissertation in Digital Games Design: Theory and Design - either 12,000-18,000 words or 8,000 words with practical component - delivered in either digital format or as a design document (term 3, 60 credits)

Students are expected to use the MA forum for discussions and are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular support activities such as game jams, local game related and networking events in order to practice the creative and technical skills developed throughout the programme and foster conversation and connections that are an invaluable part of the post-graduate experience.

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel and what you will learn on the course.

Special Features

  • Students will engage in, and experiment with, practical games creation, with workshops led by designers working in the industry, as well as explore a range of theories and concepts with which to analyse the values of games, play and pleasure.

  • This programme offers a unique focus on practical games design, informed by theory that is not offered by any other university. It is not a software or graphics training programme.

  • We have a team of experienced games researchers teaching on the programme, some of whom have played a pioneering role in making game studies a new academic discipline.


Assessment is via a combination of practical games-making work, presentations and essays of varying length.


Upon graduating from Brunel’s MA Games Theory and Design programme, students have the potential to enter the games industry through a variety of jobs including (but not limited to) level designer, Q&A (Quality Assurance), project managers, game user research, etc. The programme may also be of interest to those already working in the industry who desire updating their creative and technical skills.

The programme also provides academic support to those who wish to continue on to doctoral studies in digital game research and pursue an academic career.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2015/6 entry

UK/EU students: £7,000 full-time; £3,500 part-time

International students: £14,750 full-time; £7,375 part-time

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Requirements

  • A UK first or second class (2:1) Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification in arts; humanities; social sciences; multimedia; computing or electrical engineering.
  • Other subjects and qualifications with relevant games industry experience will be assessed on an individual basis.
  • Applicants may be invited to an interview. 

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 7 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 64 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 70% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a number of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.

Page last updated: Thursday 12 November 2015